There are multiple ways to get labels onto a disc. Originally, the only way to make professional-quality DVDs was through big companies that only produced large quantities. Then sticky labels came out, followed by automated disc publishers and LightScribe. Microboards’ CX-1 is a disc publisher that aims to make the DVD making process easy, letting you cost-effectively produce varying quantities of professional-quality discs.
The design of the CX-1 DVD disc publisher is of pure utility. The thick plastic cover comes off very easily, and there is full access to all the components. The unit needs to be placed on the edge of a desk for the DVD output holder to hang out. With the cover off, the unit looks like a Frankenstein creation. Inside is a metal frame with some name brand and custom components screwed, glued, or zip-tied on. The guts from a HP printer make up the majority of the device. The original HP printer power adapter is present along with a small power supply for the DVD burner, fan, and automation device. There is a 4-port USB hub located inside the unit that connects everything together. The DVD burner is connected with a SATA to USB bridge on the back of the unit. A custom circuit board connects everything together and controls the loading and moving of the DVDs. There is, however, an advantage to this design. When a name brand component breaks, after the warranty is up, it can be replaced.
How Does it Work?
Overall the creation of DVDs is very straightforward. The printer plugs in with one USB cord, and all the drivers are available on the CD. One annoyance was that the driver CD would only run if logged in under the Administrator account. There are two programs that come with the printer: Printwrite and Surething. Surething has an easy-to-use interface for designing labels: import a picture, add some text, and the label is ready. Printwrite is like a standard DVD burning program with the added feature of labels. A nice feature of it is the ability to specify the inner and outer print areas allowing the user to fill up all printable space on the DVD. With Printwrite multiple DVD jobs can be added to a list; the user can then walk away while the program automates everything. The only issue with the program was it would not detect the DVD drive in the test computer to allow for CD/DVD copying. That could be circumvented, however, by first creating an image of the CD/DVD and using it for the copy.
Mechanically, there is little user interaction required. Blank DVDs are loaded into the input rack and the finished DVDs are collected from the output rack. The loading and unloading mechanics are solid in design and performance. We made 50 copies in our tests and with no bad DVDs made. The CX-1 can also burn a DVD and print one at the same time for increased speed. The best thing about this disc publisher is that once all the jobs in Printwrite are set up and started, no further human intervention is necessary until the job is done.
Cost per DVD
Cost is often the determining factor for a person’s purchase. There are multiple ways to create labeled discs. Printing sticky labels out of a printer can be done by anybody without expensive equipment. Basic labels cost $0.10 each, while a glossy label can be up to $0.50. Depending on the printer used it can be anywhere from $0.05 – $0.20 per printed label. Basic DVDs cost $0.15 each. Printing basic sticky labels are the cheapest with a total combined cost of $0.30 – $0.45 per DVD. Sticky labels are time consuming to apply and not as professional in appearance compared to printed or stamped methods (we also don’t recommend sticky labels as a result of the instability of the adhesives. The high temperatures that are often seen inside of the typical DVD drive exacerbate this.) LightScribe labeling is only slightly more at $0.50 per DVD but is only available in monochrome and takes longer to make.
For the CX1 DVD printer, the color cartridges cost $55 and the black cartridges cost $45. Based upon printing 50 DVDs and printing on half the DVD with 10% ink coverage of the color and black, the black/color set should print roughly 500 basic labels and 250 full color labels at a cost of $0.20 – $0.40 per DVD. With the cost of a printable DVD being around $0.25, an average DVD will cost $0.50. Having DVDs made by a professional company can cost upwards of $1.00 each depending on the quantity being made. Overall for smaller quantities making personal DVDs is a cheaper alternative. It would, however, take thousands of DVDs before the unit would be paid for.
Should I Buy This?
When looking at buying a disc publisher, the first thing to think about is how many DVDs are going to be made. For a few occasional DVDs, sticky labels (but only if absolutely necessary) or LightScribe will be the best choice. For tens of thousands of DVDs, a professional company is the best choice. For the people who fall in the middle a disc publisher is a great idea. There are a few disc-publishing units available in the market today, most notably the Primera line-up. Primera offers cheaper, smaller, and more stylish units. In large DVD duplication projects, however, there have been loading issues with the Primera units. The CX-1 never had one loading or burning error through multiple tests. Since the CX-1 uses name-brand parts, it doesn’t have to be sent back to the factory for costly repairs when the warranty is up. What it all comes down to is the CX-1 is a reliable unit that doesn’t have to be babysat during large duplication projects.
OS: Windows Vista, XP, or 2000
Interface: USB 2.0 and 1.1 compliant
Disc Input: 100
Speed: 20X DVD / 48X CD (blu-ray optional)
Printer: HP thermal inkjet
Print Capacity: 250 whole DVD prints
Weight: 39 lbs.
Dimensions: 9″ H x 23″ D x 20″ W
Warranty: 1 year parts and labor
- Easy to use
- Industrial look
The CX-1 is a bulky, industrial-looking unit that makes up for its looks with its utility and reliability.
Lance Olinger is Videomaker‘s IT Assistant.
8150 Mallory Ct.
Chanhassen, MN 55317